Sauber will make its 2018 driver line-up announcement soon, says team boss Frederic Vasseur. Ferrari junior drivers Charles Leclerc or Antonio Giovinazzi are expected to be the first seat.
F2 champion Leclerc has been running FP1 sessions for a Swiss team for a while now and is considered to have already got the job. But the official announcement has not been made, leading to hopes that Giovinazzi may still have a chance at the race seat.
As per the deal with Ferrari for new engine and gearbox, Sauber is required to take one of the Ferrari’s younger drivers. According to reports, The Maranello team is negotiating with Sauber to accept both the drivers.
Ferrari is also trying hard to place the Italian at Haas in spite of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen already being confirmed for next season.
But if Sauber accepts both the Ferrari protégés, Marcus Ericsson will be out of a racing seat. The Swede has been financed by a few investors who now own Sauber and thus there is a dilemma on what the team would focus on. It is understood that Vasseur has been given the final say in the matter.
We asked when the team expects to announce its line-up, Vasseur said: “Quite soon. We know where we are, it’s not the first priority today to take a decision on our side. We have a lot of things to do on the table, but drivers will arrive quite soon.
“The deadline will be a week before Barcelona [testing], but at one stage we will have to take a decision. But we are not in a rush. I’m not too worried about the market, and the other drivers.
“We are discussing with Ferrari for the driver, and I think we will get one. Step by step. First, we need to take one, and we have to discuss about the first one, and then we will discuss about the second one.”
Vasseur acknowledged that owner’s interest and support of Ericsson will not automatically mean the Swede will get a seat as he is looking out at the long-term health of the team.
“You know that the investment in Sauber is a huge one, and you can’t link the development of the company, with a driver’s project – on both sides, because a driver has to develop his own project, and when you’re a driver, you want to get results next week or at least max, say next year.
“When you are a team, you have a long-term view, and it’s more a two or three years project. It’s not easy to fit everything.
“Marcus is a good asset for the team, he’s experienced in F1, and we have a very good collaboration. We will discuss with all the drivers. I think we have a couple of drivers in contact so far. I will take a decision quite soon.”
Commercial considerations are not the top priority insists Vasseur.
“It won’t be a financial decision at all. We have a long-term plan with Sauber, and we can’t build up the team based on a choice just focussed on the budget. It would be a huge mistake.”